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Si vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war)

By       Message Jean-Luc Basle       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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This is the message several former national security advisors convey in an article titled: "NATO-based nuclear weapons are an advantage in a dangerous world" (1). But it's a fallacy of composition. The world may be dangerous, it does not follow that American nuclear weapons must be based in Europe. What would these advisors say if, Russia considering the world dangerous, based nuclear weapons in Mexico? We know the answer: the Cuban missile crisis.

The authors give four arguments to justify the basing of nuclear weapons in Europe: a) nuclear weapons are "political weapons", b) "Russia has embarked on an across-the board modernization of its nuclear forces", c) "NATO's principal goal is deterring aggression", and d) the Strategic Concept endorsed by all 28 NATO heads of government states that 'an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces" will be maintained in Europe. Let's review the logic.

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Nuclear weapons are military weapons. Calling them 'political weapons' is irresponsible. The Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD for short, is "a mad concept". This is precisely why John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev wished to walk away from it.

Russia may have embarked on a modernization of its nuclear forces but the statement is misleading unless put into proper perspective. In constant dollars, over an eight year period, Russia spent $550 billion on defense against $5,220 billion for the United States, a 1:10 ratio. (2) Following the fall of the USSR, the Warsaw Pact was disbanded. NATO's membership, on the other hand, increased from the initial 12 to 28 nations today, most former members of the Pact.

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If NATO's principal goal is to deter aggression, it must take no step which may be misinterpreted by Russia. In "History of the Peloponnesian War", Thucydides recounts how Athens's decision to build a wall was viewed as an act of aggression by Sparta, convinced that Athenians, preparing for war, wished to protect their city beforehand. This was the beginning of the Peloponnesian wars. Basing nuclear missiles in Europe gives the United States a strategic advantage in their seventy year cold war with Russia, allowing them to launch a first strike.

The Strategic Concept and its follow-up the Deterrence and Defense Policy Review have no basis other than coerce Europeans into the American hegemonic vision and planning. These two documents may have been approved by "all 28 NATO heads of governments" but who recalls a public debate about them in any of the European countries, let alone in Brussels?

Economically, financially, militarily and culturally, the United States is arguably the dominant power. This does not mean it must bully friends and enemies alike into submission. Might is not right.

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(1) "NATO-based nuclear weapons are an advantage in a dangerous world" -- The Washington Post, August 17, 2014. The signatories are: Brent Scowcroft was national security advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. Stephen J. Hadley was national security adviser to President George W. Bush. Franklin Miller was responsible for U.S. nuclear policy in the Defense Department for Presidents George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton and on the National Security Council staff for President George W. Bush.

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Former Vice President Citigroup New York (retired) Columbia University -- Business School Princeton University -- Woodrow Wilson School

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